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The holiday season brings many things: Christmas trees, snow, winter activities and lots of family time. But what about all those sweets, treats and holiday drinks that make an appearance during these holiday festivities? This week, we asked our followers to share the holiday snacks and treats they were most excited about. Check out a few of our favorite captures below and be sure to follow us on Instagram for upcoming weekly challenges. Share your best photos with us by tagging #EnjoyIllinois and your photo could be featured!

For more unique Illinois destinations, events and attractions check out EnjoyIllinois.com.

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We kicked off our Instagram challenge with this Chicago classic, Garrett’s Popcorn shop! Photo by: @happydays669

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Prost, or cheers, from the Christkindlmarket! Make sure to try their hot chocolate, hot cider or mulled wine, just like @christyspur_10 did!

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Did you know that Margie’s Candies has been in Chicago since 1921? Awesome snowy shot captured by @chippercentral of this sweet shop.

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If you enjoy doughnuts and eggnog, you’re sure to love this festive doughnut at @pandadoughnutcu in Champaign!

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Along with some beautiful latte art, @elainescoffeecall on Clark St serves up some seasonal sips! Make sure to try their rosemary gingerbread latte.

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Yum… Pecan Pie! What a great picture of Frank’s Karma Café’s pie photographed by @wauconda.il.

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As Homer Simpson says, “Mmm, donuts!” Great night shot captured by @dbromo.

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What a unique take on “sweet and salty.” We are dying to try this popcorn ice cream cone in Morton at the Great American Popcorn Company! Photo by: @lindsay_allece

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When you combine brown butter, sweet potato, pistachios and cranberries, you get this decadent dessert from Dusek’s in Pilsen! Great shot, @alexandergouletas.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

 

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Brunch is that special time of day where breakfast and lunch meet. So many of Illinois’ best eateries have menus filled with sweet and savory dishes to ensure patrons leave satisfied. This week we asked you to show us your favorite brunch spots around the state. Check out a few of our favorite photos below, and be sure to follow us on Instagram for upcoming weekly challenges. Share your best photos with us by tagging #EnjoyIllinois and your photo could be featured!

For more unique Illinois destinations, events and attractions check out EnjoyIllinois.com.

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We are in awe of this decadent plate of eggs benedict served at Jail Hill Inn in Galena. Thanks for the photo @halcraftem!

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Holiday shopping and brunching at the same time? That’s right, you can do both at the Christkindlmarket in Chicago. Thanks for the festive photo, @ChristySpur.

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Elaine’s Coffee Call in Chicago’s Hotel Lincoln is the perfect spot to grab breakfast on the go. (Photo courtesy of @elainescoffeecall)

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What’s brunch without a bloody Mary, mimosa or craft beer? Corridor Brewery & Provisions has the best of both worlds with great brews and an amazing brunch menu. Thanks for sharing @southportcorridorchicago.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

 

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Illinois is teeming with places to spend time with your family, and there’s also no shortage of history to learn about during pretty much any road trip around the state. We recently partnered with Chicago-based photographer and Instagramer Craig Hensel (@thecraighensel) and his family as they took a road trip around Central Illinois. Along the way, Craig caught some incredible photos as they learned more about Illinois Amish community, took part in some fall activities and learned a bit more about the history of Abraham Lincoln. Below you’ll find a brief look at Craig’s itinerary, as well as a Q&A session the Illinois Office of Tourism had with him upon his return.

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A map of Craig’s three-day, Central Illinois road trip.

ITINERARY

Day 1

The Great Pumpkin Patch, Arthur

The Great Pumpkin Patch has more than 300 varieties of pumpkins, squash and gourds from 30+ countries around the world; all grown on the farm at The 200 Acres. Amazing pumpkin towers, beautiful gardens and a petting zoo with goats, pigs, exotic chickens, rabbits, a llama and an alpaca, make this a great family spot.

Located in Arthur,  a town of 2,200 residents, the Great Pumpkin Patch sits  in the heart of Illinois Amish Country, with more than 1,000 Amish families living in the countryside. Established in 1865 by a handful of families, today more than 4,500 Amish live in the town and surrounding rural townships.

Aikman Wildlife Adventure, Arcola

Located between Arthur and Arcola, Aikman Wildlife Adventure is a drive-through park where you can get up close and personal with animals you’ve only seen on television or behind fencing at a zoo. Visitors have the opportunity to see and take pictures of animals walking around directly outside their vehicles while  driving the one-mile long path through the park. Aikman’s also features a separate walk-through adventure with kangaroos, cavies, wallabies and lemurs, and a large petting zoo area.

DAY 2

Marcoot Jersey Creamery, Greenville

Marcoot Jersey Creamery, a proud maker in the Illinois Made program, is a seventh-generation, family-owned farm that specializes in the handcrafted production of artisan and farmstead cheeses. At the creamery, visitors can take a tour and meet the cows, experience the milking parlor, and sample and purchase a variety of cheeses, ice creams and more.

DAY 3

Abraham Lincoln Sites, Springfield

History comes alive around every corner in Springfield, home to more Lincoln sites than anywhere else in the nation. Visitors can explore everything from the historic Old State Capitol to Lincoln’s home, tomb and  his must-see presidential museum.

To take a trip similar to Craig’s, or to plan an entirely new trip, check out our Trip Ideas.

Q&A

Here’s what Craig had to say about his favorite memories of the trip and some of the information he and his family learned along the way.

Q: What were you most looking forward to before beginning the trip?

Craig Hensel: I was most looking forward to my time on the trip with my family and exploring Illinois. As far as a place I was particularly excited to see, that had to be Arthur and the Amish community. That was really unique to me, and I enjoyed watching my kids experience things they’d never seen before.

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Craig’s daughter running towards a tower of pumpkins at The Great Pumpkin Patch in Arthur. (Photo by Craig Hensel)

Q: Was there anything that surprised you about the trip?

Craig Hensel: One thing that really surprised me in Springfield was when we went into this shop that had antiques from Lincoln’s days; like an old muzzleloader. I didn’t expect that to be in the town, and I was impressed that the shop had such old stuff.

The other thing that surprised me was our visit to Marcoot Jersey Creamery. Marcoot’s story is incredible – now run by the family’s seventh generation. You don’t see family businesses handed down from generation to generation like that very much anymore, so it was a really special experience for our family.

The big surprise was when we were driving home, we stopped at Lincoln’s New Salem site in Petersburg, and that blew our minds. We felt like we were walking back in time.

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Unique angle inside the Old State Capitol State Historic Site in Springfield. (Photo by Craig Hensel)

Q: After you got back to Chicago, had anything changed in your expectations of the trip?

Craig Hensel: I expected to see the rural towns, but I didn’t expect to see the diversity in the communities, like the Amish County in Arthur. What blew my mind was seeing the Lincoln sites through the historic lens. It was very impressive to learn so much about our state’s history. I felt a deeper understanding of what Illinois is and who we are.

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Craig’s wife, Jenah, was resting on Lincoln’s cabin at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. (Photo by Craig Hensel)

Q: Is there one specific memory or experience from the trip that’s going to stick with you?

Craig Hensel: The Lincoln museum was a big one for sure. The era of pioneer history is very attractive. Lincoln’s New Salem Site was probably the most memorable. We had time to walk through the woods and decompress as a family before heading back to the big city. Another good memory is from Marcoot Creamery. My daughter loves animals, and so here’s my kid in the middle of this little barn with about 25 calves that were just born. That visual memory of my kids is awesome. Also, when my daughter was picking up farm dogs and watching three or four dogs surrounding her. Those little memories in my mind are what will stick.

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An awesome close-up shot of a zebra at Aikman Wildlife Adventure in Arcola. (Photo by Craig Hensel)

Q: Any last advice for other Chicagoans looking to explore downstate?

Craig Hensel: I think people are missing out if people don’t take time to take a three-hour trip. There’s a National Park right in Springfield!

Going downstate, don’t be afraid to take the back roads. Don’t be afraid to follow the brown highway signs. The food and the hospitality are amazing, and anytime you can, take advantage of the farm-to-table dining. If you haven’t already, make a stop in Springfield to visit the Abraham Lincoln sites, and see for yourself what it was like to live back in the 1800s. Experience local restaurants and mom and pop restaurants, which probably have the best food in the Midwest. Try to drive Route 66 if you can and go through the small, historic towns.

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A beautiful rural road near the Great Pumpkin Patch in Arthur. (Photo by Craig Hensel)

– Illinois Office of Tourism

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The holidays are upon us and the spirit of the season can be felt throughout Illinois. A month-long celebration of holiday concerts, lights festivals, and plentiful holiday shopping can make even the biggest scrooge get into the spirit of the season. To help you celebrate, we’ve put together some of the must-see shows and holiday attractions from all around the state. Whether you’re looking for a unique date night or fun family experience, read on to plan out your holiday itinerary.

Chicago Date Night

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Photo by @ChicagoSymphony

It’s a Wonderful Life in Concert  

The grand Symphony Center on Michigan Avenue is home to the revered Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO). Founded in 1891, the CSO is consistently hailed as one of the greatest orchestras in the world and there is no better time to see them live than the holidays!  For a truly special experience, listen as they bring a holiday classic back to life during the live performance of It’s a Wonderful Life, December 9-11.

The Nutcracker at the Joffrey

The opening of the Nutcracker is one of the surefire signals that Christmas is coming. This year The Joffrey’s Tony Award-winning choreographer, Christopher Wheeldon, is reimagining the classic through the eyes of a child at Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair. Take in an early show with your sweetie before dining out in one of downtown’s magnificent fine dining options like the recently opened Dearborn Tavern or grab a drink at LondonHouse.

Holiday Shopping

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Downtown Chicago

Holiday shopping can prove to be stressful if you don’t have a plan of action. Luckily the city of Chicago has made it easy on shoppers by centralizing some of the best shops in the world right along Michigan Avenue, between the Chicago River and Oak Street. This strip, better known as the Magnificent Mile, offers a combination of high-end and casual retailers, with some excellent dining options scattered in along the way.

Just a few blocks from the Magnificent Mile, State Street is another prime shopping destination. Block 37 offers five floors of impressive shopping and dining options including Zara, Anthropologie and Latinicity, which offers a delicious twist on Latin street food featuring 10 innovative kitchens, a tapas restaurant, coffee café, full bar, market and lounge.

Featuring popular retailers such as H & M, Nordstrom Rack, Urban Outfitters and Macy’s, the landmark State Street Retail Historic District is always abuzz during the holiday season. The flagship Macy’s on State Street pulls out all the stops during the holidays, bringing in a 45 feet tall Christmas tree and displaying its annual Holiday Windows.  Whether you stroll by as you shop or make a special trip, viewing Macy’s holiday décor has become a family tradition for many.

Outlets

Illinois is home to many stores for those holiday shoppers looking to save this season. Just outside the city, shoppers will find Rosemont’s Fashion Outlets of Chicago, including over 130 designer outlets.  While you’re there, be sure to experience “Frozemont” at MB Financial Park. Here you will enter a winter wonderland complete with ice skating, ice hockey, ice sculptures and more.

Another great option to satisfy holiday shoppers is the Chicago Premium Outlets in Aurora, which just saw a recent expansion to 140 stores including Calvin Klein, Theory, and Vera Bradley. To improve your shopping experience, you will also find many seasonal features like complimentary hot cocoa and lounge areas for a break while bargain hunting.

Check the links for more details.

Unique Shopping

For those of you looking for a unique touch to holiday gifts, try a more creative option like one of Illinois great craft fairs or holiday festivals. Julmarknad in Bishop Hill is sure to be a festive experience with plenty of one-of-a-kind artisan gifts. The always popular Christkindlmarket in Chicago is another great place for handmade gifts. Now open in Chicago’s Loop and the historic Naper Settlement in Naperville, this traditional German holiday market serves up tons of sweet treats and incredible crafts.

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Here’s a short list of additional unique Illinois holiday shopping options:

Holiday Fun for the Whole Family

Across the state, Illinois has plenty of festive experiences for families. Plan a trip to see the Nutcracker in Champaign, featuring the Champaign Urbana Ballet company and a few of its littlest ballerinas.  If you’re looking for a cultural experience this season, head to Christmas Around the World at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, to find more than 50 Christmas trees, each decorated in the style of a different international culture. As an added treat, children can also create their own holiday trinket to remember their visit.

The East Peoria Festival of Lights returns for its 32nd year offering a place for families to enjoy beautiful light displays without having to leave the comfort of their warm and cozy cars. The kids will love it and adults will definitely appreciate the holiday cheer.

Here are even more choices for family friendly holiday fun:

For more useful information to plan your holiday season check out the Enjoy Illinois Things to Do tab.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

 

 

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Autumn is the season of beautiful colors and even better food. Luckily, Illinois is home to many options that can fulfill your hankering for a sweet treat, drink or hearty meal. This week we asked you to show us the fall treats you love. Check out a few of our favorite photos below, and be sure to follow us on Instagram for upcoming weekly challenges. Share your best photos with us by tagging #EnjoyIllinois and your photo could be featured!

For more unique Illinois destinations, events and attractions check out EnjoyIllinois.com.

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C.C. Ferns serves up the sweetest treats in this shot taken by @rach.esq. Sprinkles and chocolate for the ultimate win!

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Fall food means the comfort of fried cheesecake from Dead Tree Tavern in Rock Falls. Thanks for the delicious shot, @Sauk_it_to_me.

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Nom nom nom… this shot of Galena Brewing Co.’s beer and pretzels is making us hungry. Thanks for sharing @enjoygalenactry.

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There’s no end to the variety of fall eats in Chicago. This dish from Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot looks like true comfort food on a chilly day. Thanks for sharing, @jassiemoy!

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Sweet and savory treats are plentiful at Harvest Pancake House this season. Thanks to @andres_deleon for the photo!

-Illinois Office of Tourism